What are the Prerequisites to Learn Data Science?

What are the Prerequisites to Learn Data Science?

‘I am a person with love for numbers but haven’t graduated with a degree in statistics or maths. Can I learn data science?’

‘I am a quantitative problem solver but don’t have a master’s degree. Am I eligible to become a data scientist?’

‘I am good at writing excel macros and have affinity towards statistical analysis. Can I pursue my career as a data scientist?’

‘I have good programming knowledge and know a bit of mathematical modelling. Can I become a data scientist?’

These are few of the many questions, that career counsellors at ProjectPro, get asked while counselling professionals on data scientist training. If you are a recent college graduate with great interest in quantitative/statistical analysis and you do programming occasionally – it is likely that you have come across the phrase – “Data Science is the hottest career of the century” and this has no doubt interested you to get started, on the data science career path.  Leading data science experts from ProjectPro answer the question- “What are the Prerequisites to learn Data Science?” If you are looking to get your foot through the professional data science door, then do read the article completely to decide if data science is the best career move for you.

How to become a Data Scienctist


Kirk Borne, a data scientist with Booz Allen Hamilton said – “There are many skills under the umbrella of data science, and we should not expect any one single person to be a master of them all. So I suggest that you become expert in two or more skill areas, but also have a working knowledge of the others.”

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Pre-requisites to Learn Data Science

You might have come across several online resources which state that becoming a data scientist requires a candidate to possess expert skills in various fields like software development, database query languages, machine learning, programming, mathematics, statistics, data visualization, etc. This seems like a lot – and many do get discouraged once they go through this immense list of skills that they are told is necessary to become a data scientist. This, however, is not the case – as many senior data scientists, who teach at ProjectPro say-One need not possess a lifetime worth of data scientist skills to start learning data science because “Data Scientist” is like a blanket job title where each one is of a different hue and share similar conceptual models and philosophies. There are different types of data science jobs one can apply for, by understanding the data science job descriptions clearly. Data Scientist skills are so varied, that it needs to be understood as to which skills one already possesses to become a data scientist and which ones can be developed over time to match the open data science jobs. However, there are certain prerequisites to fulfil before one can begin their data scientist training -


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Is a Master’s Degree or a PhD necessary to learn data science?

A master’s data science degree program or a PhD might be a way to go, in developing and waving a technical data science skill set to potential employers but is not a prerequisite to get started with a career in data science. Lack of a highly quantitative degree does not debar one from learning data science. It is possible to learn data science even without a Master’s degree. For high-functioning individuals, who really have the knowledge and expertise with the required tech skills, having a Master’s or a PhD does not matter in the data science space. Real data science experience always outweighs the time spent in acquiring a Master’s degree or a PhD because getting a PhD can prove to be a very long grind.

A master’s or a PhD matters when you are applying for a job but not having a PhD is not going to stop you from becoming a data scientist. If you are applying for a data science job at Google, then a master’s or a PhD might be a requirement but other companies will have biases in other directions for hiring a data scientist. PhDs matter only if you are applying for a higher level data science position. When beginning to learn data science, PhD or a Master’s Degree is not a necessity.

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Is a graduate degree in Math or Statistics compulsory to begin a career in data science?

Data science teams have people from diverse backgrounds like chemical engineering, physics, economics, statistics, mathematics, operations research, computer science, etc. You will find many data scientists with a bachelor’s degree in statistics and machine learning but it is not a requirement to learn data science. However, having familiarity with the basic concepts of Math and Statistics like Linear Algebra, Calculus, Probability, etc. is important to learn data science. Larry Wasserman's All of Statistics: A Concise Course in Statistical Inference is a must read book for people who want to get a solid background in Statistics.

Do I need be a hard-core programmer to learn data science?

Programming is an essential skill to become a data scientist but one need not be a hard-core programmer to learn data science. Having familiarity with basic concepts of object oriented programming like C, C++ or Java will ease the process of learning data science programming tools like Python and R. These basic concepts of programming should help a candidate get a long way on the journey to pursue a career in data science as data science is all about writing efficient code to analyse big data and not being a master of programming. ProjectPro offers introductory Free Data Science in Python Course  where individuals can learn the basics of programming in Python before they begin to learn data science in Python through hands-on projects.

Are SQL skills important to learn data science?

Most of the data scientist’s time is spent in writing SQL and related scripts. Knowing how to write a basic SQL query and having familiarity with joins, group by, having, creating indexes, etc. is important to learn the art of data science. One need not be a database administrator to become a data scientist but unless you have basic SQL knowledge you cannot get the data out, for analysis. Regardless of whether the data is to be retrieved from a database or a Hadoop cluster, there is SQL language layer always present on the top.

Is Hadoop a necessity to learn data science?

There are many technologies that are emerging for SQL interfacing with Hadoop so for a data scientist to know how to write a Hadoop MapReduce job is not necessary. Knowledge of basic distributed system concepts like MapReduce, Pig, Hive would be helpful but again it depends on which company you will be working for. Many companies have started using Hadoop-as-a-Service so data scientists need not have in-depth working knowledge of Hadoop.

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Is data science degree a pre-requisite to become a data scientist?

Neither a data science degree program nor a data science online course (MOOC) provides real training on how to talk with the clients, manage and organize teams or how to lead the analytics group. University degree programs or MOOC’s cannot help you learn the soft skills required for a data scientist job. So, a better alternative to learn data science is to enrol for a data science training offered by MOOC providers like Coursera, ProjectPro, Udacity that help learn data science without having to spend big money and time on university degree programs.

Do I need to know machine learning concepts to learn data science?

Machine learning is an integral part of data science but to begin a career in data science it is not necessary to know the machine learning concepts in advance. Because, if you already know machine learning then you are halfway through your data science career. There are many MOOC providers like Udacity, ProjectPro, Coursera that offer data science courses in Python and R which cover all the required concepts of machine learning. However, if you are still keen on learning machine learning concepts then ProjectPro industry experts suggest a few must read books-

  • Kevin Murphy's -Machine learning: A Probabilistic Perspective
  • Larry Wasserman's- All of Statistics: A Concise Course in Statistical Inference
  • Hastie, Tibshirani, and Friedman's -The Elements of Statistical Learning
  • David Barber's -Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning
  • Bishop's -Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning

Checklist on How to Become a Data Scientist

Here’s a simple checklist for you to assess if you have all the pre-requisites to learn data science and become an enterprise data scientist-

  • Have a Master’s /PhD/Graduate Degree in any of the STEM fields.
  • Know the ABC’s of programming.
  • Know the basics of SQL
  • Have passion to develop business acumen
  • Curious about playing with data
  • Familiar with the basic math and statistic concepts

If you have answered YES to all the above, then you can Enrol Now with ProjectPro to learn Data Science. However, if you have answered NO to any of the above statements then please do get in touch with career counsellors at ProjectPro by sending an email to anjali@dezyre.com with your query or let us know in comments below.


How ProjectPro helps you learn Data Science?

You have manipulated, organized and mined large datasets but you seem to lack the specific technical skills like Python, R, Hadoop, NoSQL, Machine Learning - to become a data scientist which most of the data science job postings are asking for. Considering how quickly data science domain is ramping up, candidates might be better off learning from industry experts who are practicing data science anyway. Python and R are the necessary technical skills that can help one to become a live data scientist (one who automates most of the data science processes to produce desired output) instead of just being a static data scientist who works in a manual fashion with data.

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ProjectPro’s Have got all the pre-requisites to learn data science along with curiosity for data then what are you waiting get started to learn data science with ProjectPro’s one-on-one mentored Python and R Programming courses! Having taken ProjectPro’s data science courses, candidates can continue learning data science on the job and make sure that they do not miss out any opportunity to get involved into the details of the projects their team is working.


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